Karnataka Speaker told SC MLAs have right to quit House

The Karnataka Assembly Speaker told the Supreme Court that the resignation of a lawmaker, for whatever reasons, from the state legislature was a matter of right under the Constitution, as an elected representative can’t mechanically yield to the party whip unmindful of the views of the people he represents.

“Giving up the membership of the legislature is a right. You can’t be blindfolded and stick to the whip and betray the views of the people who have elected you,” Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri told a bench of Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Krishna Murari.

The top court is hearing a plea by 17 disqualified Karnataka Assembly lawmakers seeking to put on hold the Election Comm-ission notification for elections to the seats that fell vacant after they were unseated following their disqualification by the former Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar.

In three-fold alternate prayers, the disqualified MLAs have sought the stay of the September 21, 2019, Election Commissi-on’s notification for holding elections to the vacant seats for which nomination would start from September 29, 2019.

Alternately, they have pleaded that the elections be deferred till the court decides on their plea seeking the quashing of the Speaker’s decision disqualifying them and that too disqualification extending till the expiry of the term of the current House that ends in 2023.

Further, they have sought the stay of the Speaker’s decision holding them disqualified for the rest of the term of current House. The 17 Karnataka MLAs belonging to ruling alliance of Congress and JD(S) were disqualified after they defied the whip and abstained from voting on the confidence motion moved by the former Karnataka CM.

Telling the bench that the resignation was a democratic right, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that that as far as the Speaker was concerned, he has to be “satisfied” that the resignations were tendered voluntarily. If the Speaker is satisfied that the resignations were given voluntarily and were genuine, Mehta told the court that then it has to be accepted “immediately” without going into the reasons for the resignation.

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